Commentary: Alaska's perplexing decisions on Palin emails

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell's office apparently never thought to make the Sarah Palin administration emails available in electronic form, despite an ease of doing so that has everyone from state lawmakers to the people who finally scanned them shaking their heads.

Linda Perez of the governor's office told the Juneau Empire that the commercial printer the state used to make paper copies of the emails was never asked to re-digitize them.

Neither she nor Sharon Leighow, Gov. Sean Parnell's spokeswoman, could recall who made the decision not to ask for electronic copies, which apparently could have been easily and more cheaply scanned onto a CD-ROM -- a memory loss intended, apparently, to avoid embarrassing someone.

Further, Perez refused to name the commercial printer the state used, telling the Empire it could file a public records request for the name. Sadly, that's consistent with the ham-handed and petulant way the Parnell administration has fumbled the release of these public records from the beginning, dragging its feet and making public access to public records as difficult as possible.

Only the protests of lawmakers like Sen. Dennis Egan of Juneau got the administration to reverse its ridiculous decision not to make the records available for viewing anywhere other than Juneau. Since then, news organizations that have paid to scan the records and make them available online have said the technology is commonplace, and that the refusal to use that technology looked deliberate. One said the entire exercise seemed like something from the 1950s.

Egan told the Empire he was astounded at the state's handling of the emails.

Here's why this is important. It's not the emails themselves, which so far don't appear to include any great revelations. It's the contempt for the public records law. Gov. Parnell's policy in this matter has been to do as little as possible to satisfy the letter of the law while violating its spirit and thwarting its purpose. With limited exceptions provided by law, government business is public business.

Ready availability of public records should be a matter of course.

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